The owner of two construction crane and rigging companies and a mechanic have been indicted on manslaughter charges after a 200-foot construction crane crashed onto a New York City apartment, killing 2 men and seriously injuring a third.
Investigators have found evidence that James Lomma, owner of New York Crane and J.F. Lomma, Inc., and Tibor Varganyi, a former mechanic with the company, chose an obscure Chinese operation they found on the Internet to repair cracks in the turntable of a crane in an effort to save time and money.
The accident occurred on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in May 2008, just a month after the damaged crane was returned to use. The crane’s operator Donald C. Leo, 30, and fellow worker Ramadan Kurtaj, 27, were both killed when the weld failed.
Prosecutors allege that Lomma and Varganyi hired Dalian, China-based RTR Bearing to weld the crane because they were concerned more about cost savings and profits than with the integrity of the crane and the safety of the workers using it.
Two companies that inspected the broken crane said that the repair work would cost $34,000 and take at least 7 months to repair. The Chinese company told Lomma and Varganyi that it could repair the crane in 3 months for about $20,000. Prosecutors say that Lomma wanted to rush the repair because the crane rented for about $50,000 a month – money the company would lose while the crane was docked.
But it wasn’t so much the desire to save time and money that makes this construction accident so tragic. The accident clearly could have been prevented because RTR told Lomma and Varganyi that it wasn’t confident in the repairs.
An RTR employee emailed Varganyi to warn him that “we don’t have confidence on this welding.” But Lomma chose to keep RTR on the repair and didn’t have an engineer oversee the work or take appropriate measures to ensure the quality of the repair, prosecutors allege.
The accident came just weeks after another crane, which is also owned by Lomma, collapsed on another job site in Manhattan, killing seven people.
If convicted, Lomma, 64, and Varganyi, 63, could receive up to 15 years in prison.